Not even Mother Nature can slow down Chris Stratton.
Taking the mound six hours later than originally scheduled Saturday after rain pushed back the game's start time from noon to 6 p.m., Stratton pitched 6 2/3 solid innings to lead Mississippi State past Georgia State 8-1 at Dudy Noble Field in the first game of a doubleheader.
"(MSU head coach John Cohen) just told me to be prepared and be mentally ready at all times and that's what we tried to come out here and do," said Stratton. "I just tried to go out there and win a ballgame, that's all."
Throwing 112 pitches, Stratton surrendered just two hits while striking out four.
The sophomore right-hander did battle control issues at times, walking five Panthers, but allowed just the one earned run.
"I can't attribute anything to the weather," said Stratton. "Just had trouble locating sometimes, but had to battle through it."
The lone Georgia State run, which came after Panthers third baseman Brandon Williams led off the fifth inning with a single and scored on first baseman Theo Asher's RBI ground out, was the first run surrendered by Stratton since May 15, 2010, against Vanderbilt – a string of 28 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
"Shouldn't have given up that leadoff hit," said Stratton. "Just having fun, trying to compete, but runs are going to happen. Just have to try and limit it as much as we can."
Though he finally allowed an opposing team to plate a run against him, Stratton's offense provided him with plenty of room for error.
Led by freshman right fielder C.T. Bradford's 2-for-5, 3 RBI night and senior left fielder Nick Vickerson's four runs scored, the Bulldogs offense was slow from the offset, but heated up as the game progressed.
MSU (9-2) broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the third against Georgia State starter and eventual losing pitcher Nick Squeglia when Bradford's one-out single to right scored Vickerson after Vickerson had drawn a walk and stole second.
An inning later, Bradford struck again, slapping a two-out, two-run single that plated Vickerson and senior shortstop Jonathan Ogden to give MSU a 3-0 advantage.
"No doubt, I love watching (Bradford) play," said Stratton.
Stratton gave up his lone run in the fifth as the Panthers (9-2) closed to within two runs at 3-1, but MSU senior catcher Cody Freeman got the run back and more in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out single of his own that scored Jaron Shepherd and Vickerson to make it 5-1 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Stratton returned to the mound in the seventh and retired the first two Georgia State batters he faced, but after back-to-back two-out walks, Cohen relieved Stratton in favor of junior right-hander Caleb Reed, who ended the inning with a strikeout.
In lasting into the seventh, Stratton picked up MSU's seventh quality start of the 2011 season, just 11 games into the campaign.
The Bulldogs boasted just eight total quality starts all of last season.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs essentially put the game away, capping the night's scoring with a trio of unearned runs against Georgia State reliever Zach Chastain.
Over the course of the eighth and ninth innings, Reed made sure to keep up the pitching pace that Stratton started by finishing with 2 1/3 innings of work without allowing a baserunner and striking out two.
All the good moundwork from both Stratton and Reed came despite the chilly, wet and blustery conditions.
"Obviously, we'd like it to be sunny, but it wasn't so you have to keep battling through what you've got," said Stratton.
Mississippi State began the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at 9:15 p.m. facing Iowa. The result of that contest was unavailable at press time.
The Bulldogs return to action today with a 2:30 p.m. rematch against Georgia State at Dudy Noble Field.
Prior to that game, Iowa battles Georgia State at 11 a.m.